The very first Ed story establishes the bare bones of a very simple setting. Ed and Sam are university students who share a house. Ed is a scientific genius who spends most of his copious free time constructing ridiculous physics projects in the basement. Sam is just an ordinary bloke. While the fictional "Sam" is obviously based on me, Ed is not intentionally based on any real person or other fictional character.
It, Robot (part 1)
When it comes to fiction, every medium is unique - books, movies, television, the internet. Likewise, there are some things that a writer like myself can accomplish within a site like E2 that I can't do anywhere else. Daylogs in particular provide a great place to write science fiction. The reason being, you can start a story and people will read it, thinking "Ah, just another mind-numbing account of somebody's day". Then they get to the slightly weird bit - the time travel or the aliens - and start to think "Hang on, is he making this up?" By the end, they've worked out that it's just a work of fiction, but the revelation midway through adds to the effect of the whole story. Around when I first came to E2 I wrote a number of science fiction daylogs - partly due to the above effect and partly due to the fact that I wasn't very confident as a writer at that point. It, Robot (part 1), originally titled "March 9, 2003" until much, much later, was one of these daylogs.
It, Robot (part 1.5)
It was moderately successful so I decided to keep going. It, Robot (part 1.5) was a follow-up, but I feel it's the weakest Ed story by a long way. I stopped doing science fiction daylogs regularly around this time; you may get more votes, but fewer C!s and less long-term exposure.
The annoying orange orb outside my window each morning
There used to be a writeup by "zach" in The annoying orange orb outside my window each morning which lamented the Sun and asked for somebody to please turn it off. I'd grown more confident in my writing by now, so, inspired, I wrote the story and included Ed again, since he was available to include.
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out
I believe Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out was a title given to me as a challenge. I don't remember the details. This shows Ed uncharacteristically investigating biology and brainworks rather than physics.
An admin password for the universe
The idea for An admin password for the universe came to me while I was watching Futurama. There's a scene where Professor Farnsworth remarks that in order to get around the limitations of relativity, scientists "increased the speed of light in 2208". I got thinking about how that could possibly work in reality. I came to the conclusion that you would probably need to have some sort of universal configuration file which the scientists could get access to and adjust. I don't remember whether I found the title before or after I had the idea, but Admin Password got written and was startlingly well-received. Fun fact: originally I had Sam find that "All your base are belong to us" was written into the fabric of the universe too. This was dropped after I found out how many downvotes it was getting.
It, Robot (part 2)
It, Robot (part 2) was written when I realised that the alien invasion mentioned in the first two Ed stories had never actually been fully resolved. Nobody had gone to the alien homeworld and made peace with them so logically they must still have been attacking us. The story did little to actually resolve the matter; it just mentioned that the war was still continuing.
The best thing since sliced bread
There was a big break between that and The best thing since sliced bread. It wasn't that I'd run out of ideas; more that I'd run out of ideas which could plausibly be presented as an Ed story. Some particles just shouldn't be accelerated, one of several pieces of fiction written in the meantime, is NOT intended to be an Ed story, but is very much of the same feel, and could probably be slotted into the same universe with a little effort. "Sliced Bread" is mainly an investigation of the logical consequences of having a gate which leads forwards in time, but it's not really much else.
Be Here Now
April 3, 2004 saw the beginning of the five-part weekly story entitled Be Here Now. This came about mainly as a result of my trying to come up with a logical, internally consistent and 100% paradox-free model of time travel which could be used in a sensible piece of science fiction. (Ed himself explains this model in Part Two.) The semi-infinite three-day loop situation which occurs in the story was the first interesting logical consequence of the model. I kept the story in the daylogs because I was uncomfortable with the notion of using up five separate node titles to tell a story which I wasn't sure was worth the space. As it turned out I needn't have worried; if I come up with some chapter titles, I plan to get them moved into a more prominent position.
Around this time I began to find myself short of ideas to keep the Ed stories going. I also realised that the Ed universe, originally very simple, had become a bit too complicated to keep writing in without worrying about the dreaded continuity. There were some significant open questions, such as:
- What year is this?
- What happened to the invaders in It, Robot (part 2)? Did we beat them or what?
- There are allusions in Part Two of Be Here Now and The best thing since sliced bread which suggest Ed may have accidentally destroyed the galaxy of Andromeda. What actually happened? Were there consequences?
- How is Ed so smart?
Fortunately, I've run into such situations before, and in my experience, simply trying to explain away apparent plot inconsistencies can be a huge catalyst for new storylines. This was no exception. I started to construct a timeline of events and some sort of coherent story arc to explain it all. Spacéd and everything onwards has been my attempt to resolve all this, as well as finally taking Ed and Sam into space for the first time.
The first three chapters, "Ed Rocks", "The first frontier" and "Men like large amounts of kinetic energy" were an attempt to devise a logical means of space travel for science fiction purposes. The latter is also further evidence that E2 is a great source of titles. "Nine Years" (which refers to the song "Five Years" by David Bowie), "Do Not Fire From Target Continuum" (possibly the best title for anything ever) and "That's your solution to everything" introduced the Eridanian energy virus threat, and incidentally served as a conclusion to the Ed stories set with us both in university.
The notion of an "energy virus", or a hole in spacetime which expands forever, annihilating everything in its path, is my own. I came up with it as long ago as 2001. However, as it turned out much later, vacuum decay is a real hypothesis which fits this description almost exactly. This rather surprised me, to say the least.
Originally, "Your radical ideas" through to "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place" were part of Spacéd but I've retroactively shifted them to become a separate story. I think it makes more logical sense as there are about four years between "That's your solution to everything" and "Your radical ideas".
The nucleus of this story, named The Escape, is in the following idea I had for a piece of dialogue:
"There's an asteroid coming towards Earth. It's a fifteen on the Palermo scale."
"Ed, the Palermo scale only goes up to ten."
"No. You're thinking of the Torino scale. The Palermo scale is logarithmic and goes up to infinity."
I simply wanted to figure out how, with the equipment and abilities already at his disposal, Ed would go about averting such a catastrophe.
The last three chapters of The Escape introduced the Andromedans. "This is the rest of the iceberg" is the first line of I will howl in a deep lagoon by "yossarian" - when I first read it, long ago, I typed it into the search box and thus stumbled on a completely unlinked nodeshell, which I then vowed to fill (although I couldn't say if I did it justice). "Truth And Reconciliation" is the name of a ship in Halo. Originally the story had a rather rushed ending at that point, as I felt it was going on too long and wanted to end it, but I changed my mind and spread the story out to one more chapter, "Famous First Words".
The End Of The Game
The final story, The End Of The Game, resolves all the open plotlines I can think of, including, at last, Ed's origins.
"Imperfect Worlds", as well as dealing with the great Minus Ten jump, raised an issue I've long had with shows like Star Trek: homocentrism. I've never seen a science fiction universe in which Humanity isn't represented as something special: the big guys, the peacekeepers, the top civilisation, the centre of the universe. Sure, there are films where the aliens enslave Humanity, but we always win; even if we don't, it's clear the aliens are evil. I wanted to present an opposing view, a situation in which Humanity wasn't big or clever, but actually unpleasant, trivial and way, WAY behind the grade curve; a third world civilisation.
"Hotel Infinity" and "resolution" tie together and shed new retrospective light on basically every previous story. Whether they do this in a good way is something I am absolutely paralysed with fear about. The notion of Humanity producing interstellar noise pollution and thereby irking nearby aliens is a concept I reused from this very old story of mine.
With the relatively lukewarm reception of the most recent installments I had second thoughts about going ahead with my intended final chapter. I spent an unpleasant amount of time trying to write something better instead. What I eventually came up with was "What doesn't take a million years takes a millionth of a second", which provides closure, though I doubt it could have ever hoped to live up to expectations.
Will there be more?
There's room for it, but no.
Bolstered by the overwhelmingly positive response I received to all my work on E2 (where all the Ed stories were originally released), I have decided to try to get some of my work actually bought and published. The Ed stories, unfortunately, are the wrong sort of stuff. As they are written for E2, they are generally rather too short to qualify even as short stories. Also, continuity demands that all of them would need to be published, or none of them. Be Here Now stands well on its own, but then we run into the different issue that all the Ed stories have already been published online, which makes them harder to sell. So writing more Ed stories at this point would not get me any closer to my goal. I am now writing original material.
But this was a tough decision to make. I never had any specific ideas for adventures for Ed to have in Andromeda - their galaxy is so vast and perfect that one man simply could not have any significance there - but I did have to throw out a few passages I'd already written, including the details of Ed's last-picosecond rescue and witness relocation by a covert group of Chiorons, and an epilogue in which Ed returned after seventy years in space to give Sam (or possibly his granddaughter, Anne) one final revelation about the nature of their universe. And I find deleting things I've already written is much harder than writing them in the first place.
Some time after all this I wrote Free, Standing. It was originally just a standalone work - one of many failed attempts to recapture asteroid McAlmont - but on a whim I decided to let Ed be the subject of the story. The story still stands on its own, but to those in the know it also serves as a proper epilogue. Here's my reasoning: The one thing Ed could bring to Andromeda which they had never seen before was his point of view. He looks at their technology through the eyes of a complete newborn. They're all new toys to him. So it makes sense that he'd do something creative with his life. I think it works.
If you have enjoyed the Ed Stories, you should read Fine Structure.